Tract #46: Is Evolution Atheistic?
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Is Evolution Atheistic?
Many people — even some atheists — assume that all atheists agree with the theory of evolution. But even though most atheists do believe animals evolve, someone may disagree and still be an atheist. Similarly, some people assume that anyone who believes in evolution is an atheist, but, again, this is not the case.
There is only one qualification for entry into the atheist group — a lack of belief in deities. Beyond that, atheists have a wide variety of world views. You can’t assume that an atheist agrees with evolution any more than you can assume that an atheist is a skeptic, is a pure materialist, or is anti-religion.
An atheist might disagree with the majority of scientists about details of evolutionary theory, or think that evolution itself is insufficient to explain the rise of species, or suspect that creatures from another planet interfered with the development of Earth’s creatures. The only thing an atheist may not believe is that a deity had a hand in the creation of animals. Someone with that belief is not an atheist.
On the other side of the coin, belief in evolution does not require atheism. Evolution does not presuppose a deity, but it also does not rule one out. In fact, because it’s a scientific theory, evolution has nothing to say about the existence or non-existence of deities whatsoever.
At most, evolution shows that species can arise from other species and don’t need to be individually created. This contradicts some religious beliefs, but disagreeing with some religions doesn’t make one an atheist — disagreeing with all religions makes one an atheist.
A theist might believe that a deity created a universe that is run by physical laws and that evolution is one of those laws. By setting things in motion in a certain way, the deity ensured that Earth would form and certain creatures would evolve. Alternately, a theist might believe that a deity oversees evolution, pushing it in certain directions so that its will is done without anything ostentatiously miraculous occurring.
A theist might even believe that the Bible is literally true, that God created a garden in Eden, that a flood destroyed most living things, and that after the flood animals evolved, eventually leading to a planet filled with more species than Noah could possibly have loaded onto a boat.
The main point is this: atheism and evolution are two different things. They often go together, but that is because scientific thinking and skepticism can lead to both atheism and evolution, not because atheism and evolution require each other.